Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate - Information Technology/The Use of Computers and it's Implications

From WikiEducator
Jump to: navigation, search

Social and Ethical Issues

Social and Ethical issues arise from the processing of data into information. The phrase "Social and Ethical Issues" refers to issues that affect direct and indirect users of the system. They may be legal issues but they may also be moral issues and the dangers to society from the misuse of the information. The phrase "Social and Ethical Issues" is not used in the HSC IPT syllabus but it does refer to a range of issues which are covered:

  • acknowledgment of data sources
  • the freedom of information act
  • privacy principles
  • accuracy of data and the reliability of data sources
  • access to data, ownership and control of data
  • new trends in the organisation, processing, storage and retrieval of data such as data warehousing and data-mining

Data Accuracy

Accuracy is the extent to which data is free from errors. Data is not always error free. This is for a number of reasons. Errors may happen when it is first gathered. Errors can happen when it is entered or it may be corrupted by problems within the information system. It is often necessary to compare data from a variety of sources to check for errors.

Data Accuracy refers to the accuracy or correctness of the stored data. The data source itself may not have been reliable for any number of reasons and that means that the information gleaned from that data source is also incorrect or during data entry the wrong address was typed in or the customer has changed their address and the database has not been updated.

Unfortunately there can be serious consequences to incorrect data.


  • People have mistakenly been given bad credit ratings because another person has the same name and therefore missed out on housing loans. They then need to find out why they have not been given the loan and why there credit rating is bad and then try to prove that a mistake has been made. This is all very difficult to do.
  • Identity Theft: Where a person steals another persons identity.
  • Critical information not being passed on
  • Wrong decisions being made because the original data was incorrect. This may have very serious consequences where peoples lives are in danger.

Data Integrity

Data integrity refers to a condition of the data in which data has not been altered or destroyed in an unauthorized manner.

Data Integrity describes the reliability of the data. If the data has integrity it means that it has not been corrupted or accidentally changed. If the data has integrity and reliability then it is also up to date and we know that the data can be relied upon for statistical use or reporting. In a relational database it is important that the data also has referential integrity. If it doesn’t then the data cannot be relied upon at all and any query may not really be accurate. If there is no referential integrity then data may be duplicated and an employees dependants may be listed for an employee that has not been entered into the database.

Data Validation

Data Validation is used to check for the accuracy of an entry. The methods of data validation are: A Range Check: is used to restrict data entry to a specified range of numbers. For instance a range check may restrict a date entry to dd/mm/yyyy (which is day day/month month/year year year year). A range check would check if the numbers entered are within the range of 1 to 31 for dd etc…

A List Check: is when acceptable data to be entered is stored in a list and then the data entered is compared to the list. For instance if the list included all the schools in NSW then Kogarah High would be acceptable whereas Kigarah High would not be accepted unless there was another school called Kigarah High.

A Type Check: Checks to see if the correct type of data has been entered. For instance in our earlier date example an error would occur if in days “thirty one” was entered instead of “31”. One was a text type as compared to a number.

A Check Digit: A check digit is a number that is added at the end of the data. It is calculated by a formula where the other numbers are added and then put through an algorithm to end up with the number to be used as a check digit. If the data transfer or stored is wrong then the check digit would have changed and we know that the data is corrupted.

Data Verification

Verification is the process of data checking in the effort to prevent errors. It is carried out by the person entering data against the data source. For instance it may be a customer support officer asking the customer if their address or phone number has changed. It is not just data entry that needs to be verified. backups need verification to ensure that if they are needed they will contain the required data. In this case verification may involve error checking at the end of the backup. For instance a checksum or CRC may be used to check the backup, download or burning process has been reliable.

The ultimate in backup verification is doing a test restore

Data Bias

Data bias refers to bias a one sided distortion of the truth within a data source. The bias maybe intentional where a group such as a government body or organisation is trying to push a point of view or it can be unintentional such as an individuals point of view.

Data Reliability

The reliability of all sources should be examined. Reliability can be affected by bias, skewed or affected by inaccurate research or inaccurate analysis. As such even when data comes from a major company, government body or other “official” source it should always be examined for reliability.


Privacy is the right of an individual to a certain degree of anonymity and to know that data about you is not openly or secretly being recorded in an unreasonable manner. Privacy is very important to a democracy and reflects our own individual rights to express our opinions, the right to be able to vote in free elections and among other things to pursue our own life without being told how to live our life. Unfortunately privacy is being eroded with the mass onslaught of electronic information systems.

As corporations and government departments begin to share their data it becomes a more and more significant question as to who has the right to control this data? How much access should each individual have? Ands how do we know that the information being held on us is accurate? And what are the repercussions for us if the information is not accurate.

Access To Data

Access is the extent that corporations, government bodies, individual people and others should have access to their own, other people’s data or a collection of other data such as photos or historical information. Should all information be free and available to all? Should we have immediate access to any information stored on us? Should all other information posted on the web or held electronically by libraries be free. Should we pay for information such as copies of historical photos or research? Should information collected by museums and universities be free for everyone? What are the consequences that we do have to pay?

Ownership and Control of Data

If a company has information stored about you, do you have any rights? Does that company have the right to own the information about you? If they do own that information what rights do you have? What are the implications of that information being owned?

If a company has information about you does it mean that they have the right to sell that information? Who buys it? How else can that information be used?

How would you feel if you were walking past a billboard that spoke to you by name and knew very personal and private information which it spouted out about in an advertising campaign with other people around? Should they have the right to do this. Frighteningly this technology which was first showcased in the Tom Cruise movie, "Minority Report" is real and was planned on being used here beginning 2004. It did not happen for some reason. At this stage the biotechnology. iris scanning and retina scanning does not have the database with personal prints of people's retina's and iris' to make it work but the rest of it is there. There are already large databases on most people. That information is already sold to companies who specifically may knock on your door to sell you goods knowing full well that you have already purchased a particular product in the past. Companies will already phone an individual at home to sell a product, knowing that person's name, address and a variety of other personal information. This is normally done by a customer service offiver or sales representative at a call centre in India or elsewhere, meaning that your personal information has been given to a range of other companies across thge globe.

Tim Berner's-Lee, the founder of the internet, was quoted as saying, "privacy is a thing of the past, get over it." Do you agree with this? Why would he say this? Should this be the case.

Data Warehousing The storage of data from a large range of sources for use by other people is referred to as data warehousing. The data stored in these warehouses would normally either be as a result of data mining or will be used for data mining. Web sites and other places store information under various categories and other databases will collect information from a range of sources and all of these activities is called data warehousing.

What is a data warehouse?

A data warehouse is a collection of data marts containing data from different operations in a company. This data is optimized for querying and data analysis as a data warehouse. Table design, dimensions and organization need to be consistent to allow the creation of reports and queries.

What is a Data Mart? A data mart is a segment of a data warehouse that provides data on a department within a company, e.g. sales or payroll. Data marts can be complete data warehouses but are usually smaller than the corporate data warehouse.

What are the benefits of data warehousing? Data warehouses allow queries that can cut across different segments of a company's operations looking for patterns and allowing analysis. Data warehousing is an efficient way to manage and report on data that comes from a variety of sources. It is also an efficient way to manage demand for lots of information from lots of users. Data warehousing provides the capability to analyze large amounts of data for knowledge that can provide an organization with competitive advantage.

What is The Difference between Knowledge and Information? Data becomes information once it is sorted and useable. Information becomes knowledge once it has been analysed.

Data Mining Data mining is the process of looking for relationships and patterns in data held in a database. This might look for patterns in the type of visitors to a web site, where these visitors are going to or why they have come. It might look for any number of relationships and nay relationship discovered is an opportunity to increase business or traffic to a web site or the usefulness of a database over all. There is a lot of money in data mining.

Unfortunately because of the potential money involved some managers or data miners may become unthinking in regards to privacy and individual rights.

Freedom of Information

The 'Freedom of Information Act' allows provisions for individuals to gain access to information see documnts held by government ministers and departments, ask for information concerning you to be changed if it is out of date, incorrect or misleading.

When the Whitlam Government first raised the issues towards Freedom of Information which was then crystalised by the Fraser Government in 1978 it was seen as being a major turning point in civil rights and government accountability and many also hoped the Internet would bring unprecedented openness and access to information held by government departments. Unfortunately this has not proven to be the case.

The new digital age has created a new era of closed doors where the private emails of senior managers and undelings are censrored and most are deleted and never stored and where an individual cannot know the discussions that took place prior to critical decisions being made. The initial impacts are being now happening and adjustments are being made, but the second phase implications have not yet become apparent. Powerful institutions believed their interests to be threatened by the technological changes and by the shape of the 'information economy'. Companies and government organisations are building extensions to legal protectionism, and the active development and application of technologies that protect data from prying eyes.

Many egulations and laws that are in place to protect civil rights and create a balance between data protection and access to information have already gone, and the new balance seems to be far less friendly to public access.

"Many of the features that have ensured a progressive balance between data protections and freedom of access to data have already been seriously eroded, and the new balance that emerges from the current period of turmoil may be far less friendly to public access and more like a New Dark Ages." Roger Clark FOI Dark Ages

Acknowledgement of Data Sources

If quotes and images are taken from another source they should be acknowledged. This means the names of those sources should be stated. This is ethical practise. Those photos and notes represent another persons's efforts and it is unreasonable not to give credit to those people. Besides being unreasonable it is also illegal. Unfortunately it is difficult tp prosecute and many copyright images mistakenly are said to be free.

Users must also be able to validate information retrieved from the Internet. There are a number of ways that a user can do this:

  • Acknowledge all data sources where the core information has been used
  • It may be by means of an included bibliography or list of references used
  • It may be by use of hyperlinks or just giving credit to the source under a quote.

Issues Related To New Trends

When the NSW HSC Syllabus speaks about issues related to new trends it is referring to new developments in technology and how they are affecting society in both good and bad ways. The phrase issues, however does have a connotation of focusing on problems but is also important to look at solutions and the ways in which people are overcoming, fighting or avoiding possible problems (issues).

Identity Theft

Have you ever eaten at a restaurant, paid with a credit card, and forgotten to get your copy of the credit card receipt? Did you know that many of these receipts have your credit card number printed right there for anyone to see (and use)? And, if you've signed them, your signature is also right there for someone to carefully copy. This can lead to the most simple form of identity theft. With this bit of information, some unscrupulous person can be well on his way to making purchases either by phone or on the Internet using your credit card number. You won't know about it until you get your statement (a good reason why you should always study the charges on your credit card statements!). All they have to have, in most cases, is your mailing address, which can be looked up in a phone book or easily found on the Internet.